USA Air Force creates hypersonic aircraft

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

hypersonic craft
The X-51A Waverider is shown here under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress.

The USA’s Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) are designing an aircraft that can travel five times faster than the speed of sound! They hope to finish the unmanned flying weapon by 2023, fine-tuning it with enough speed to cross the USA in just 30 minutes.

Their futuristic project builds on knowledge from the Air Force’s $300 million X-51A Waverider program, which began in 2004. The unmanned X-51A aircraft was successfully tested in 2013, traveling at five times faster than the speed of sound –  almost 4,000 miles per hour – before it crash-landed in the Pacific Ocean. The X-51A sustained the flight for around 6 minutes, making it one of the longest ever for a vehicle traveling at speeds considered to be hypersonic (“hyper”’ meaning “more than” and “sonic” meaning “of or related to sound”).

The next phase of hypersonic travel will focus on ways to implement the technology in planes and missiles. After all, anything traveling at such blazing speeds can potentially reach any destination on Earth within hours. It would forever change the face of warfare and travel.

Images courtesy of the Pentagon and Department of Defense.